jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

LA AURORA BOREAL

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Una de las cosas que ni se nos habían pasado por la cabeza el venir al Territorio del Yukon es que al estar tan al norte, además del frío polar, tendríamos la posibilidad de ver “las luces del norte” o Aurora Boreal.



Desde España suena tan exótico que parece muy complicado llegar a un sitio adecuado para verlas. Imaginaos nuestra sorpresa al salir a la terraza en nuestra segunda noche aquí y ver las siluetas de los árboles recortadas en unas luces verdosas que no paraban de moverse como si fuesen cortinas de humo. Desde la terraza. No tenemos ni que ponernos las botas.



Casi todas las noches el cielo ha estado encapotado pero cuando no ha habido nubes hemos tenido auroras siempre. Qué bonito debe ser esto en pleno invierno, cuando, por lo que dicen, casi nunca hay nubes.


Enrique & Marina
English version

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS



To be honest, when the idea of going up to the Yukon first crossed our mind we basically pictured ourselves in the polar cold but we didn’t realised until later that its Northern location will also bring the possibility of viewing Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. 



Coming from Spain, this sounds to us like something extremely exotic and getting to a place to see them feels like a mission, a really hard (and cold) adventure. Well, picture our faces when we saw them just outside from the balcony. It was only our second night in the Yukon when we could see the dark silhouettes of the threes cut out on a green background that moved randomly as bewitched smoke. And that was just from the balcony. We didn’t even have to put our shoes on. 



Most nights the sky is covered with clouds but when it was clear we nearly always had Auroras. It must be so pretty in the middle of the winter when there aren’t as many clouds as now. Shelley says the best time of the year is February, but you still have to plan a window of a few days if you want to visit and be safe. 

Enrique & Marina

jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2016

HALLOWEEN

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Al estar en un país anglosajón era obligatorio celebrar Halloween. Empezamos el día veintiocho de octubre con una baile de disfraces organizado por Shelley para la comunidad de disminuidos mentales de Whitehorse. 




Una cosa de la que nos hemos dado cuenta desde que cuidamos a Greta en Hastings hace ya más de tres años es que la gente con cierta disminución cerebral son muy desinhibidos por lo que sus fiestas son muy divertidas: todos bailan coreografías increíbles (no por la ejecución técnica pero sí por la imaginación y las ganas), cantan y se ríen de todo (especialmente de sí mismos).




Al día siguiente tocó la fiesta de los niños en la sede social de la comunidad de Tagish. Ahí fuimos todos disfrazados y nos lo pasamos genial bailando y comiendo marranadas.





Nada más llegar nos encontramos con la exposición de las calabazas que los niños habían tallado esa misma mañana. Alguno tenía más talento que otros, pero todas, ya sea por una cosa o por la otra, daban mucho miedo.



Al día siguiente los niños fueron capaces de convencer a sus padres para que les dejasen ir casa por casa pidiendo caramelos. Eso tiene mucho mérito ya que las casas están muy lejos unas de otras así que un adulto les tiene que ir llevando en coche.



Esta fue la primera vez que celebramos Halloween con una familia con niños y fue divertido. La próxima vez les convenceremos para asar castañas y comer panellets.


Enrique & Marina English version

HALLOWEEN



This is North America, so celebrating Halloween is not optional. We started celebrating on the 28th of October going to a Halloween themed fun dance that Shelley organised for some people with mental issues from Whitehorse. Previously, I wrote that her role involves encouraging healthy habits among this social group and socialising is a part of this. 




Attending this party brought up some memories of our time with Greta in Hastings more than three years ago. This was our chance to proof that people with some kind of mental issues are particularly uninhibited and, quite often, very musical and/or arty. Therefore, all of them danced; some performed amazing choreographies, maybe their technique wasn’t the best but their moves were certainly creative; sang and found everything funny. We were glad to participate, serving soft drinks and cake and help with the clean up, so they all could focus on having fun!



The next day, still not the real date for Halloween, we had another party at the Tagish Community Hall. In the morning, I went with the boys to the hall to start with the most important decorations of the night: carved pumpkins. Each of them carved one and they all were pretty nice and creative. It was interesting to find out that nowadays there make pumpkin carving tool kits that make this craft way easier than using plain old kitchen knives. 



The Penner boys decided to try colouring their pumpkins with red food colouring to resemble blood. The results were quite scary and so was the condition of our hands after applying the product. Once pumpkins were done, it was all set for the night. 




Later in the evening, the whole family dressed up to attend the party. They kids came up with some creative and inexpensive outfits and so did Shelley and Myron. As we later saw at the party, the point wasn’t to look exactly like something but to dress like something it’s not you. There were some really cool costumes among the residents and no one seem to have bought much new stuff a part from wigs or fake beards. 



The entrance of the hall was lit with the pumpkins that the Tagish kids carved in the morning. They all look even more impressive with a candle burning inside. 

At the hall there were lots of games ready for the kids, a DJ playing music and every family brought some kind of snack to share. Everyone seemed to have a great time dancing, eating doughnuts hanging from the ceiling, tossing bean bags and eating lots of candy.



Then, on the real Halloween, the boys managed to persuade their parents to go out trick or treating. Note that this is a great achievement considering that Tagish is a very spread community of about 300 people and therefore an adult should drive them around. Well, it really was the neighbour who offered to take them along with her three children and they only went to friends’ places were they knew they’ll be welcomed. 



This was our first Halloween with a family with young children in a country where this is really a date to look forward. It was a lot of fun, but next time we’ll persuade them to roast chestnuts and cook “panellets” which are the traditional catalan pastries we eat for All Saints in Catalonia. 

Enrique & Marina

lunes, 21 de noviembre de 2016

LA MATANZA

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Hace ya unos días que vinieron unos amigos de los Penner a casa porque habían comprado una de sus cabras. La tenían que sacrificar y limpiar, de lo que se encargó, evidentemente, Myron.



Preparamos uno de los cobertizos con paja seca por el suelo y plásticos aislantes en la zona de la puerta con el objetivo de mantener el calor en el interior. Trajimos un foco muy potente, unas cuerdas, un trineo para las vísceras y los utensilios de caza de Myron.



La cabra en cuestión era el macho Billy, de cinco años y con tendencia a romper cercados, paredes y puertas. Los niños nos explicaron que solía romper la puerta o la cerca, salir al exterior del granero, mirar la nieve y volver a entrar por donde había salido porque probablemente estaba más calentito.



Myron entró en el corralito donde estaba Billy y le disparó entre los ojos con un rifle del calibre 22, pero la bala rebotó; dicen que probablemente de tanto darse cabezazos contra la puerta el animal tenía un callo considerable. La bala no lo mató pero le dejó lo suficientemente aturdido como para que Myron pudiese degollarlo sin recibir una cornada.



Una vez desangrado lo colgamos de una viga por las patas traseras y Myron nos enseñó a desollarlo con un bisturí. Entre Myron y el señor que había comprado la cabra tardaron una media hora en terminar con la piel.



Una vez los músculos estuvieron a la vista Myron dio una pequeña lección de anatomía, aderezada con anécdotas de caza: que si un oso hizo esto, que si un alce hizo lo otro… obviando el tema de la muerte y la sangre era muy entretenido de escuchar.



Myron procedió entonces a eviscerar a Billy y aprovechó para remarcar lo limpio que es quitarle las entrañas a un animal cuando no tiene un balazo que le ha atravesado las tripas, los pulmones, el corazón o todo a la vez. También nos demostró que, si todos los órganos están intactos, no huele mal.



Pusimos todos las vísceras en el trineo y se las llevamos a los perros del vecino, que tiene unos cincuenta, ya que los usa para competiciones de trineos. La cabeza se la quedaron los niños porque querían los cuernos para un fuerte que están construyendo en el bosque.



Una vez terminamos con Billy fue el turno de los dos pavos de la granja. Los pusimos (uno a uno) en un cubo con un agujero en la base por el que salía la cabeza y Myron los degolló. 

Una vez desangrados y muertos los metimos en un barreño con agua muy caliente durante unos segundos y los desplumamos. Con el frío que hacía era bastante agradable para las manos ya que los pavos estaban calientes.



Una vez terminamos y recogimos ya era bastante tarde y Shelley preparó uno de los pavos para cenar, estaba riquísimo.


Enrique & Marina
English version

THE SLAUGHTER OF THE GOAT



While with the Penners, some friends of them came over from Whitehorse to visit because they bought one of the family goats. And it wasn’t a pet goat so it needed to be killed and butchered, which Myron kindly offered to help them doing that. 



Enrique helped a bit with that while I went to a pumpkin carving event at the Community Hall. First, they covered the floor of one of the barns with dry straw and closed the entry with some plastic to try to keep the heat inside the space. They installed a big lamplight and a few ropes, brought in a sled to move any heavy stuff and Myron’s hunting gear. 



Let me introduce the goat whose life was going to end. His name was Billy and was a five years old male pretty keen on braking fences, doors and walls. The boys told us that Billy used to break the gate of his barn way too often to go for a wander around, the animal will always go back to his stable since it’s probably warmer than outside. On top of this, he was getting a bit aggressive and feeding him became a not pleasant activity for the kids. They tried to cut his horns so at least he wouldn’t hurt anyone but the smart Billy managed to remove the elastics every time. Anyway, as you can see, it seemed that there wasn’t much point to keep him at the farm anymore. 



The process started with Myron getting into Billy’s barn and shooting a bullet of the calibre 22 between the creature’s eyes. The bullet bounced off. They though that he may had grown a really thick forehead after knocking his horns against fences, doors and others for so long. The impact of the bullet left him dazed enough for Myron to slit his throat. 



After bleeding the goat, they hung the body by the back legs and Myron showed the others how to remove the skin using a scalpel. It took them about half an hour to skin the animal. 



When the muscles were showing, Myron did a little lecture on anatomy scattered with a few hunting stories to make it more fun: anecdotes about bears, issues with a moose… Despite all the death and blood I bet it was really entertaining. 



Then Myron proceed eviscerating Billy and pointed out how much cleaner this is when the creature to butcher didn’t get a bullet in his stomach, guts, lungs, heart or a combination of these. And demonstrated that if the organs aren’t damaged it doesn’t smell at all (when done properly, of course). 



They load the sled with the guts and took them to the neighbour who has about fifty competition sled-dogs and always welcomes free fresh food. The Penner boys took care of the Billy’s head because they’re collecting various horns to make a fountain in the forest. 



When Billy was all done, it was the farm turkey’s turn. The winter is too cold for them and if they don’t get killed they’ll soon die in the cold. One bird at a time, they were put in a bucket with their heads sticking out for Myron to slid them. 

Once killed and bled, they threw their bodies in very hot water for a few seconds and plucked them. Despite the cold, it was a pleasant job for their fingers considering that the turkeys were still warm. 



When they were all done it was already pretty late in the evening and Shelley cooked one of the turkeys for dinner. We decided it was our delayed Thanksgiving dinner since we didn’t have one at the right time and the family also didn’t do anything special on the real date. 

Enrique & Marina

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016

LOS PENNER Y EL TERRITORIO DEL YUKON

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Una vez terminada nuestra aventura en Quadra Island nos fuimos hacia el Territorio del Yukon, entre Alaska y el resto de Canadá. Esto significa que estamos muy al norte, tan al norte que las brújulas apuntan hacia el suelo.



Aterrizamos en la pista congelada del aeropuerto de Whitehorse (Caballo Blanco), la capital del Yukon (Río Grande), donde ya nos esperaban Myron y Dalton. Ellos eran la avanzadilla de nuestra tercera familia canadiense: los Penner de Tagish.




Myron es constructor y carpintero de profesión, es guía de montaña, guía de caza mayor (osos pardos y alces), bombero voluntario, camionero y conductor de ambulancia los fines de semana. Tiene aspecto de sargento de hierro, con sus hijos lo es, estando casi siempre muy serio, con la navaja, la Leatherman y el teléfono en el cinturón (con hebilla de esas gigantes con relieves de caballos) y la camisa siempre de camuflaje. De propina sabe cantar, country o himnos religiosos.



Shelley lleva casi veinte años encargándose de las personas con deficiencias mentales de la región; desde organizar un baile temático mensual hasta acompañar y asesorar a familias enteras en las visitas a servicios sociales o la escuela. Es la coordinadora del servicio de ambulancias, presidenta de la comunidad de Tagish, organizadora del sistema de reciclaje de residuos y profesora de sus tres hijos, que están escolarizados en casa.



Dalton (11), Dawson (10) y Alex (8) son los tres hijos de la pareja y la razón por la que a la familia se le conoce como los “Pennergang”, que sería algo así como “la banda de los Penner”. Tanto Myron como Shelley son muy cristianos, algo así como los de las películas como “la casa de la pradera”, con todo lo bueno y con nada de lo malo, afortunadamente. De este modo los tres niños están realmente bien educados comparados con otros niños de su edad con los que nos hemos cruzado. Eso sí, agotan.



Los Penner llevan años acogiendo a viajeros y les encanta. No pueden permitirse viajar los cinco fuera de Canadá así que acogen a viajeros para conocer otras culturas, creencias y maneras de vivir. Desde el primer saludo pasamos a ser parte de la banda y de sus rutinas. A veces hasta parece que vayamos a ir a asaltar una diligencia todos juntos. Nuestro principal cometido durante estas tres semanas es dar clases a los niños y llevar la casa (cocinar y asegurarnos de que los niños hacen sus tareas en la granja) ya que estas semanas son especialmente caóticas para la familia.





Hace cinco años que los Penner perdieron su casa en un gran incendio. Myron la reconstruyó en un año y aquí es donde estamos: una casa acabada, perfectamente aislada del frío, diseñada con sentido y muy bien cuidada y mantenida tanto por fuera como por dentro (hace un par de días que limpiamos a fondo tanto la chimenea como la caldera; no cantamos la canción de Dick Van Dyke en Mary Poppins pero casi).

La casa está en el centro de unos terrenos enormes llenos de abetos altísimos que talan de vez en cuando para hacer leña. Tienen tres caballos, cuatro cabras (dos de ellas son nuestras proveedoras diarias de leche, de sabor muy fuerte comparada con la leche de vaca, pero una vez acostumbrados está riquísima), unas treinta gallinas, cuatro conejos, cuatro gatos que tienen terminantemente prohibido entrar en casa y dos perros: Luna la guardiana (un mastín de los Pirineos) y Arlo el payasete (mezcla de mastín y border collie) que van siempre sueltos porque están encargados de vigilar a alces, osos y lobos. Si sales de la casa y te metes en el bosque te acompañan, la única manera de que no te sigan es atándolos. Lo cierto es que ir con Luna da mucha seguridad.




Entre otras cosas aquí hemos aprendido la diferencia entra frío seco y frío húmedo. Así como en Vancouver estábamos siempre con el anorak pelados de frío estando a unos 10 grados, frío húmedo, aquí podemos estar tirándonos en trineo con los niños o yendo en moto de nieve sólo con un jersey, frío seco. Y esto es una cosa que todo el mundo comenta por aquí: tienen la fama de ser un congelador (realmente lo son, en invierno están a -40) y de tener inviernos durísimos pero al ser un area muy seca, el frío se aguanta muy bien. De hecho los niños han ido más de una vez a hacer sus tareas en la granja a las nueve de la noche en manga corta, estando a unos -10 grados.



Lo dejamos aquí por hoy, en breves actualizaremos con auroras boreales, fiestas de Halloween, matanza de animales y alguna cosa más.


Enrique & Marina
English version

THE PENNERS AND THE YUKON TERRITORY



After our aventures in Quadra Island we travelled North to see what the bordering State had to offer. The Yukon Territory is the gateway to Alaska from Canada which means it´s pretty up North on the map… So North that, here, the needle of a compass would mark down to the ground instead of up. 



On a random Wednesday our Air North plane landed on the frozen strip of the Whitehorse airport, the capital of the Yukon (Great River), where Myron and Dalton waited for us. They were the first two members we met of our next Canadian family: the Penners from Tagish.




Myron is a builder and a carpenter by trade, mountain guide, wild hunting guide (moose, goats, deer…), volunteer of the fire brigade, truck driver and first response volunteer for the Tagish Community on the weekend. He’s got that serious look in his eyes, and he really is strict with his kids, his belt covered with a few tools (a Leatherman among other gadgets) and a cowboy’s belt buckle that keep his shirt always perfectly tidy and tuck under his jeans gives him the final country touch. On top of that, he’s great at singing, reads music, plays the harmonica and knows hundreds of hymns and religious songs. If you though there weren’t any real life super heroes, meet Myron and he’ll prove you wrong. 



Then we have Shelley, Myron’s wife. She’s been twenty years taking care of people with mental issues in their area. Currently she mentors different people with diverse needs by taking them to doctors appointments and making sure they understand and follow the specialists’ directions, encouraging them to have healthy habits, socialise, exercise and so on. Not only that but she makes sure her clients’ children are well looked after too and gives family advice if required. Besides her work with mental health, she’s the coordinator of the volunteer ambulance service of the community, takes part in the Tagish board, runs de kids’ can recycle depot of the township and teaches her three boys, who are home-schooled. Tell me if she’s not a wonder-women. 



Dalton (11), Dawson (10) and Alex (8) are the three sons of the couple and the reason why the y’re called the “Pennergang”. The five of them make up a beautiful Christian family and, whether their faith is or not the reason, the three boys are pretty well polite specially if we compare them with the other kids we’ve met from Canada. Nevertheless and considering that they live in a rural village they’re highly active, outdoorsy and have loads of energy to burn. 



The Penners have been hosting travellers for years and they love it. It’s hard to take such a big family overseas on a holiday so the parents though that the travellers could bring some of their culture, beliefs and ways of live right to their door. We were included in their gang and their daily routines straight away. Sometimes we even get the feeling that we might all be going to assault a diligence together or overtake some sort of wild west mission. Never mind, our main job during the three weeks we were with them was to help the kids with their school work and also help to run the household by making sure the boys do their chores at the farm and tidy up after themselves also cook nourishing food for them and keep the house as clean as it can be. They’re surprisingly independent but they’re still children and this three weeks were particularly busy for the family.





Sadly, five years ago their home burnt down in a big domestic fire. It took a year to Myron to re-built a new one at the same site. It’s a finished house, perfectly insulated, with well though and functional interiors, tidy and well looked after both inside and outside. The house is surrounded by tall pine threes which some get cut or trimmed every now and then to make firewood and to keep the property clear and safe. 

Then we have the animal part of the family. They have three horses, four goats (two of them provide the household with milk everyday), about thirty hens, four rabbits, four cats and two dogs that are also farm animals and therefore aren’t allowed inside the house. The two dogs, Arlo (a Border Collie and Mastiff crossbreed) and Luna (a Pyrenean Mastiff), can run free all the time so they can patrol and chase bears, deers or wolfs away from the property. They’re good guard dogs plus anytime we go for a walk or a run at least one of them comes to make sure we make it back  home safe. Actually, the only way to refrain them from following is to tie them, that doesn’t count when leaving the house on a vehicle of course. 




Among many others, here we’ve learnt the difference between dry cold and humid cold. While in Vancouver we wore our thick coats and felt cold despite the temperature being +10 degrees (that’s humid cold), here in the Yukon we can be sledding with the kids or playing in the snow only wearing a jersey (dry cold). This is something everyone knows here: even with the ridiculously low temperatures that can be reached, such as -40 degrees celsius in the middle of the season, the dryness of the climate makes the cold bearable. Furthermore, people gets used to it or is born into it, the Penner boys play in the snow wearing t-shirts or go to do their chores after dark with a single jacket. 



Enrique’s decided to keep it short, so this is all for today, folks. This is our Yukon family, let’s see what we get up to together some other time. 

Enrique & Marina